I guess it’s a fair question. As humans, we think we’re the only ones that are cognitive of our own thoughts. But the question isn’t about cognition, it’s about thinking.
We reason out what path to take, which food to make, everyday. Dogs seem reactive, bouncing along in response to whatever stimuli come their way. But is that all there is to it? We know they feel, and they let us know when something’s not right (like a burglar coming into the house at night, under cover of darkness). BeBe is extra sensitive to smoke alarms. Instantly, she wants to climb my lap to feel protected from that noisy threat. She will also whimper, cry, snap or bark if I accidently hurt her in any way.
But does she think? In a word, ‘yes’!
We play fetch most every evening. But she’s the one who initiates the game. Usually, she stands at the foot of my lounger and stares at me, until I pay attention. I can almost hear her sending me a vibe that says, “Look at me!” On the floor beside her is one of her toys. She doesn’t bring it to me, she expects me to pick it up and throw it across the room. When I finally do what she wants, she fetches it back to me, and then drops it on the floor, as if to say, “Your turn.” This goes on for a short duration, until she tires of the game. Then she jumps on the lounger with me, toy in her mouth, and then lays down.
We’ve noticed lately that Cloe, our sightless Jack Russell (now 14 years old), has developed a routine that revolves around being fed, going for a walk, and then sleeping. If we don’t respond to her verbal hints (whines), she starts to use her paw to tap Susan on the arm. Susan then asks her what she wants, goes through a list of what that might be, until Cloe finally responds by jumping off the sofa and going to where she expects her wishes to be fulfilled (kitchen for food, front door for walk, back door for her toilet). When her needs are fulfilled, she goes back to sleep, perhaps to dream (in full vision again). Is that thinking? It seems so.
So: who’s smarter, the humans or the dogs? What do you think?